Former Lawyer Gets 8 Years In Prison For Cheating Social Security
Arkansas Times (Composite Blogs)
Kelli Hogue, 59, of Sherwood was sentenced today to eight years in federal prison and fined $100,000 for fraud that included stealing from a sewer utility and cheating to get Social Security disability benefits.
She was cited for continuing dishonest practices during the time she was awaiting sentencing, including falsifying letters pleading for a reduced sentence. She's also under investigation for falsifying tax returns to raise money to repay the money she stole.
The U.S. attorney's news release is worth reading:
A Sherwood woman was sentenced today for bank fraud and theft of government funds. Kelli Hogue, formerly known as Kelli Cashion, 59, was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison by United States District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky.
Hogue was charged by a federal grand jury in October 2019, and the indictment alleged that she had been employed as a clerk and paralegal at the Herrod Law Firm in North Little Rock from 2009 until 2018. Hogue had previously been a licensed attorney in Arkansas from 1996 until 2001 but was prohibited from practicing law after a state forgery conviction.
While working for the law firm, Hogue was also employed as the bookkeeper for Runyan Sanitary Sewer District 211, a non-profit entity that owned and operated a sewage plant for the North Little Rock Water Department, from October 2010 until November 2018.
From 2011 until 2018, Hogue wrote checks payable to herself from the Runyan bank account and deposited them into accounts she controlled, and she hid these checks by making false entries in QuickBooks, where they appeared as business expenses. She issued approximately 180 unauthorized checks to herself from Runyan's bank account, held at National Bank of Arkansas and later at Arvest Bank, totaling approximately $669,599.71.
Hogue also falsified information in order to receive Social Security disability payments by informing the Social Security Administration (SSA) she had stopped working for the law firm in 2008 or 2009, which she had not. She did not report her work as a bookkeeper for Runyan, either, and she received additional disability payments during the time she worked as a bookkeeper. In this way, she stole approximately $120,523 in Social Security disability payments.
Hogue pleaded guilty in August 2021. In January 2022, Hogue submitted four letters to the Court in preparation of her sentencing in support of her request for a reduced sentence. Three letters purported to be from her doctors, and one letter claimed to be from her pastor. Federal investigators interviewed those whose signatures were on the letters, but all four people said they did not write the letters in support of Hogue and that Hogue had falsified them. Judge Rudofsky revoked Hogue's pre-sentencing release and ordered her to remain in custody pending sentencing.
At today's sentencing hearing, it became public that Hogue had already repaid $120,000 to the SSA and $669,000 to Runyan, but she did so with money she obtained after falsifying her federal tax returns and receiving over $4 million. The investigation regarding her false tax returns is ongoing.
"This defendant has spent years defrauding her employer as well as the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars," stated United States Attorney Jonathan D. Ross. "Her brazen theft is an injustice to those who pay into the system as well as those who truly need its assistance, and today's sentence indicates the seriousness of her greed-fueled crimes."
"For more than 10 years, Kelli Hogue committed fraud by continuing to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits while working. This sentence demonstrates that my office will continue to protect the integrity of the SSA and hold accountable those who defraud its programs," said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the SSA. "I want to thank the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecuting this case."
In addition to the term of imprisonment, Judge Rudofsky also sentenced Hogue to five years of supervised release following her term of imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.00. The investigation was conducted by the United States Secret Service and the Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General, and the case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Pat Harris.